What is Police Reform?
Police reform aims to transform the values, culture, policies and practices of police organizations so that police can perform their duties with respect for democratic values, human rights and the rule of law.
Need for Police Reforms?
Due to rise in population, expansion of area, etc. there are only approx. 140 policemen per 100,000 people, a very poor ratio when compared to other modern democracies, the recommended ratio being 222 police officers per 100,000 people.
Overburdened police force, especially at lower levels where constabulary is forced to work continuously for 14-16 hours, 7 days a week, adversely impacting efficiency.
Lack of categorization of duties results in the same police force working myriad of cases across a range of issues, such as narcotics, homicide, domestic violence etc., leading to a stretched police force without much scope for specialized task forces.
Nature of duties is uncertain. More police officers are killed in the performance of duties in India than in any other country of the world.
Underutilization of modernization funds:
Leads to police infrastructure being obsolete and unmatched with the modern weaponry used by criminals and anti-social elements.
Lack of appropriate training on the use of available technology leads to aversion towards usage of such technology among personnel.
Structural weakness does not allow police to tackle present days’ problems of cyber-crimes, global terrorism, naxalism.
Draconian criminal investigation techniques:
Training heavily biased in favour of higher-level officials. (94% of the total training expenditure is on IPS officers’ training.)
Training methods are out dated, aspects of human rights are largely ignored in training modules.
Inhuman techniques of investigation like use of third-degree force; beating, torturing and other ill practices are not discouraged.
Current Affairs POI:
Father-Son duo, P Jeyaraj (58) and Fenix (31) respectively, died in police custody in Tamil Nadu. The relatives and protestors fear this to be a case of police brutality.
Reason for arrest - they kept their shop open beyond permitted time (restrictions placed in the light of COVID-19)
Politicization of Police:
Excessive political interference by political executives affects autonomy of police force.
Police are reduced to become subservient to politicians at the cost of ordinary citizens.
Low pay scales push lower levels to adopt corrupt means to earn their livelihood.
Abuse of power by top level executive over lower level personnel in the Rank System also fuels turn towards corruption.
Coordination gap between centre and states:
Ineffective functioning of police force due to problem of co-ordination between the civil servants and police officials because of ego clashes etc.
These issues come together to form other problems such as underreporting of crime, low conviction rates, etc.
Police Reforms and India
1979 - National Police Commission (NPC) set up to report on policing, give recommendations for reform.
- Commission produced eight reports; topic specific recommendations.
- Recommended the Model Police Act, which was enacted in 2015.
- Major recommendations not adopted by state/centre.
1996 – PIL filed by former DGPs in Supreme Court, Prakash Singh vs. Union of India – landmark judgement for police reforms.
- Asked Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations.
- Ribeiro Committee set up in 1998 by Supreme Court; reports handed in by 1999.
- Padmanabhaiah Committee report followed in 2000.
- Police Act Drafting Committee or Soli Sorabjee Committee drafted new model police bill to replace colonial Police Act of 1861.
- SC delivered verdict in 2006 after a decade, directing states and union territories to comply with seven binding directives that included recommendations made since 1979 for improvement (an example of Judicial Activism).
Implementation of NPC recommendations:
- The Model Police of 2015 can serve as the basis for legislative reform as it modernizes the mandate of the police.
- A governance mechanism that insulates the police from political interference and provides for the measurement and tracking of police performance must be introduced.
- A task force may be created under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to train personnel and identify non-core functions that can be outsourced.
Greater representation of women in the police force.
Integration of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act and Prevention of Corruption Act into police reforms to enhance accountability.
Creation of a separate cadre for exclusively looking into cyber-crimes, cyber threats and fraud.
Establishment of a panel of experts in psychology, negotiation, language proficiency and training may be put together for better and professional questioning during investigations.
Increased media coverage on the issue of police.
Current Affairs POI:
The murder of George Floyd in police custody (USA) was covered by media and given due attention – setting off the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement once again. Note protest slogan “No justice, no peace; no brutal police.”
On the other hand, police brutality in the case of Jayaraj and Fenix (Tamil Nadu) or in the case of police beating up youths in Delhi and forcing them to sing the national anthem, resulting in the death of one of the young men did not receive the aggressive media coverage or the public outrage it should have.